Somebody at Illumination Entertainment owes whoever created the minions big time.

The yellow oddballs stole the show in the first “Despicable Me” and the sequel doesn’t just utilize them to the same degree as the original — a major part of the plot centers around them.

“Despicable Me 2” picks up more or less where the original left off. Gru (Steve Carell) has grown even more fatherly since we last saw him, playing the ideal patriarch for Margo, Edith and Agnes, voiced by Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier and Elsie Fisher, respectively. The movie’s early moments set up much of the subplot that weaves throughout the main narrative — Gru’s life is about as picturesque as it gets, save for one thing: The girls lack a mother.

A short interaction between Agnes and Gru really sets it up, subsequent hints toward the mother subplot nearly making this particular element of the film over the top. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, if there’s one place “Despicable Me 2” succeeds, it’s in the exaggerated nature of nearly everything about it.

From the minions (who are inherently larger-than-life characters trapped in miniscule bodies) to the plot and even how damn adorable Agnes is, much of “Despicable” would come off as excessive if it weren’t so endearing. Carell plays Gru to great effect as he wrestles with the trials of love on his own and later as a protective father when Margo meets a boy of her own at — where else? —the mall.

Much of the film’s first act is set here as Gru maintains a cover as a cupcake maker to find out who’s behind the theft of an entire Arctic facility. Secret agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig) is assigned to accompany him by the folks at the Anti-Villain League, who woo Gru into helping out with the promise of shiny new gizmos and gadgets. Since we last caught up with the man who once stole the moon, he’s been hard at work building his “legitimate business,” employing his minions to craft a series of jellies (and sometimes jam.)

Carell and Wiig mix well as Gru and Lucy. Carell’s former supervillain is as innocuous and goofy as ever with Wiig adding a much-needed spark to his usual stone-faced demeanor. In fact, Gru’s attempt at being the straight-man is, again, tested time and again by those around him. Jokes range from subtle scares of conversations that may lead to “the talk” to, well, farts.

Dreamworks walks a fine line here, introducing humor that’ll make parents and twentysomethings giggle and at times laugh out loud while remaining kid-friendly. Sure, the plot suffers at times from its overwhelming predictability (the secret villain is painfully obvious from the get-go), but there’s no denying that “Despicable Me 2” does a great job of appealing to anyone looking for a reprieve from indestructible men and enormous robots.

Besides, you can’t beat the minions’ two-song outro to the flick — part Backstreet Boys, part Village People. That alone should sell anyone.


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